Way of the Hero – Part 8 – The Journey Through Tarot Cards

In the previous “Way of the Hero” article, I have explained one step, one level of the Hero’s Journey and mapped it out within Tarot Cards. We looked at: The Temperance.

Now our Hero will journey through The Devil.

In the Kingdom of Shadows – The Devil

The sun has reached its midnight point, and must now meet with the forces of darkness. And the hero has, too, reached the darkest area of his trip. Here, in a labyrinth of underground kingdoms, the treasure is hidden. A beautiful princess languishes in prison and to free her, our hero must now fight against the evil monster, terrible dragon, or insidious enemy.

These images of myths and fairy tales perfectly describe the threat that lurks in the unconscious, and we feel this threat every time we actually touch it for real, and not just in meditation while we rest in the quiet.  This encounter with the unconscious often causes fear and panic, that’s why C.G. Jung compares this to temporary insanity. “Analyzing the unconscious as a passive object to intelligence is not difficult because it corresponds to its rational expectations. The release of the same unconscious at will, perceive it as a reality is much more difficult and questions the courage and ability of ordinary human. We prefer not to understand such things. And for the weak consciousness, it is really better not to release it, because those things are not safe”. However, at this point, this is exactly what we should do; we should meet face to face with the dark side of our nature. And now, I am welcoming you to the Shadow World!

Because the devil in our world was declared the summum malum, i.e. the sum of all evil or the source of all evil, it combines all of the aspects of human shadows. That is why this card has many meanings and the archetype of the devil cannot be reduced to some common denominator.

So, when we describe this card, we are describing the meaning of the Shadow. Everything that we dislike, everything that we have repressed, everything that we neglected and were ashamed of, anything that was never accepted and released in our conscious mind, went to the subconscious and is now running our life from the background as a shadow. Now we are left with no choice but to accept and embrace our shadow. No wonder we venture into it with huge reluctance, fear, and loathing.

In this twilight zone lives everything that wanted to live a full life, but was denied the right to do so and was forced to live in the shadows. Here we find our unloved “inner demons”, which our ego declared as unworthy for the light, and therefore locked them in the dark. Our ego rigorously treats its hated parts, anxiously trying to crush them into oblivion. It is no wonder that, over time, they transformed into demons that beset our minds, and not only in nightmares.

In fairy tales, this is called the land of the sold souls. Here, in the underworld kingdom, Lucifer controls the lost parts of our souls, all that we humans have decided not to accept as “ours”. That is why it is only here that we can find exactly what we need in order to achieve wholeness.

From a psychological point of view, this “hidden treasure” is nothing but the undisclosed and unfulfilled function of our consciousness. It is one of those four functions that we discussed earlier. During this step of the journey, this function not just found to be undisclosed, but also requires our immediate conscious acceptance and integration. Either because our life requires us to realize it or because we now understand that this missing part of ourselves is needed to achieve integrity.

Our mind usually behaves quite arrogantly, believing that anything that has been suppressed or forgotten no longer exists. However, the “repressed” and “forgotten” things have not disappeared, they have only moved into the unconscious where they continue to operate. We just don’t consciously realize this.
Herein lays the greatest danger, because we can only control and wisely use those parts that are well known (acknowledged) by our consciousness. 

There are moments in everyone’s life when we do something and then realize that we were possessed by some kind of unknown force that made us do things that we later regret. We then, in surprise, ask ourselves, “How in the world I could do such a thing?” We assign this to dark forces, the devil, or demons, simply because we don’t recognize it as ours or thought that it was a part of us that was permanently and irrevocably displaced. This dark force that has, so far, been successfully suppressed is suddenly filling us up, “occupying” us and forcing us to do things that have absolutely no logical explanation.

In psychology, this part of our non-integrated self is called “autonomous complex”: they behave in our hearts like a vagabond, hiding from daylight and from the control of “authorities”, or our consciousness, waiting for a right moment. For example, when we are drunk, they can seize full control over our consciousness. Then they make us do things that are the complete opposite of our normal personalities – just because our “I” does not know these parts or does not want to know them.

However, even when things don’t go that far and we think that we are in control, those shadow parts of ourselves still affect us and predetermine our actions. That is why we fight all our lives, trying to conquer our weaknesses and dark temptations. And if someone is trying to prove that he or she was able to completely overcome it, then this person is either fooling themselves or just being naïve. Because no matter how hard we try, shadow work is a lifelong process.

But no matter what, on this stage of the journey, we can heal ourselves. It is here that we will finally discover the true path to integrity, to salvation. Here we are allowed to fill the missing puzzle piece. But it will not happen unless we realize that every aspect of the kingdom of our own shadows is a part of our integral identity.

However, we should not take all of this as an excuse to start treating others badly. We must first understand, and be aware of, our repressed impulses and desires and then find a way to integrate them into the sphere of consciousness, so we can responsibly use them. Then everything that was destructive before will transform into something constructive, finding their place in the structure of our personality. It also does not mean that we will all of a sudden become “good”, on the contrary, we can be very “unfriendly” or “mean” but this time we will be conscious of it, fully aware and responsible for our actions.

It is really important to recognize our personality traits. Every time we fail to do so, the shadow will take more and more parts of our soul, until it totally acquires it. If we are unable to see our dark parts inside of ourselves, others will gladly remind us. We will see them in other people. If someone pushes our buttons, then this person is our projection. Otherwise, we will not even notice that type of behavior. Whatever bothers us in another person is nothing but our own projection. And the more we repress it, the more we will face the same people with the same actions that we dislike so much.

A great example of this is the medieval witch hunt. The priest thinking of himself as a saint would organize the ritual of exorcism that even the most skilled magicians would not be able to perform. But what they were really trying to do was get rid of their own dark forces by projecting them on their victims.

But that is not all. Here in the darkness of our own night lives another shadow that constantly reminds us of its existence throughout our lives. This is our opposite sex, which is called by Jung the “anima” or “animus”. As with all internal images, the anima/animus has two opposites: light and dark. Everyone is familiar with our light side. This meeting took place when we first “fell in love”. At that moment the woman recognized her animus (her inner male) and the man discovered, with admiration, his anima (his inner female), because the sources of delight are only located within our light side and we have been familiar with.

“Falling in Love” is nothing but the awakening love of our own inner “I”. The person that we fell in love with certainly has some qualities that resonate with our own image of anima/animus. He has the same nose, eyes, etc. He has something that made the projection of our own inner image on him or her possible. However that “something” is small, almost weightless, in comparison with our own inner feelings. This type of “love” can last no more than six months. Then this magnificent image begins dimming and we start to see his/her less attractive sides. At first, we will try anything to bring that image back but sooner or later the moment comes when we say to our “handsome prince” or “beautiful princess” that they have changed a lot. However, in reality, our partner has not changed at all, it is just that our projection of our inner images has started to diminish and eventually stopped. Some people want to find another one that they can project their inner (male or female) images on, but there are also people who will start to realize and will distinguish their inner image from the real person. For those people, the condition of “falling in love” will be changing to the “real love” and they will start to appreciate this person for what he or she is without any kind of projection.

The Devil card takes us to the dark side of our anima/animus that lives in our hearts. Experiencing the light side and feeling all of this excitement called “falling in love”, one day we must also meet the dark side of opposite sex image. Sometimes we see both sides in one person (when we finally understand that the person is not what he seemed to us in the beginning), and sometimes we see these sides in different people. And then we suffer. Oh, yes, we suffer a lot, afraid of the pain he/she is causing us. But in the reality, this is nothing more than our own shadow images trying to find a way out, and they are projected on another person.

That is why we restlessly try to show them the right way to behave, we try to prove them that they are wrong and we are right. We are 100% sure that it is their fault, that it is he/she who is giving us pain and deserves the worst punishment ever. But the more we fight with this type of shadow, the more we repress, the stronger it becomes.

Medusa and Kali are the best examples of man’s shadow aspects.

If a man projected his dark aspect of anima on the woman, he will be sure that it is his woman’s real “face”, her real self, and to prove the opposite, would be very difficult. The same can be said about a woman projecting her dark animus, her inner demon that is creating tremendous pain inside of her, onto a real man. And it is very difficult to recognize our own dark anima/animus.

And the longer we ignore these shadows, the more they will interfere with our lives. That is why sometimes we can not stand the person upon which we project that shadow and we leave the person, swearing to never come back.  And this is how and why we attract people with the similar qualities over and over again. Then after many such experiences, we decide not to let anyone else into our hearts. We forbid ourselves to fall in love anymore because in our world love hurts.

But there is a hope because all of these mean actions from others towards us, all of those things that brought terrible pain to us and caused tremendous suffering, all of those hurtful feelings have a reason. And the reason is in our hearts, in our minds, and this reason is our shadow, which, with each contact sees its own twin in another person. Maybe instead of blaming another person, we should try to seek answers inside ourselves.

This card depicts the image of Adam and Eve in chains and under complete control of the Devil. It represents dependency and addiction, meaning that we always have to do something that is against our will. The image is pretty understandable here: we don’t have our freedom, we are tied, and that is why we are vulnerable. But if we look closely, we can notice that the chain is loose, and people can, at any moment, take the chain off and become free. However, they first need to understand and accept that they are not free. And this is a problem. Because to understand our own dependency on something, to grasp the reason why we’re not free, is difficult.

Our Higher Self will always try to bring us to our higher purpose; it will regularly throw us to our dark sides, even though our consciousness will be against it, proving that our pain is a result of somebody else’s actions. For those who really want to understand what is going on, they need to be aware and notice what is going on around them, and be aware of their inner thoughts and feelings and try to be in the present moment. As our consciousness finally accepts the fact that it is better not to run away from the problem and pain and accepts those aspects of ourselves that are repressed, there we will find the hidden treasure that we were looking for.

When we are unaware of the presence of the shadow inside us, we do not worry. But when we understand and meet our shadow, that when we start to worry. The less we know about our dark aspects, the more of those aspects we find in other people. We attract people who have those aspects to reflect our own unrecognized shadows. It is like in the mirror when wee see the reflection of our own selves reflected in different people.

In numerology, we see the connection between The Lovers (VI) and The Devil (XV). In both cards, we see Adam and Eve, both before original sin and after. The connection between cards reminds us to get our freedom from any kind of dependency or addiction (The Devil), so we can have the ability to choose (The Lovers). We can see that both cards are the two opposite poles of the same feeling. When we feel the love we feel the most exciting and beautiful feelings, free of any kind of dark spots. However, when we look at both cards, we understand that even though we are certain of our feelings of love, somewhere inside of us there is still the opposite pole, the dark side. And there is another point when we see only dark sides in the person when we hate the person, yet there is another opposite somewhere inside us, the light pole where that same love is hidden, it is just covered under the feeling of hate.

That is why it is very important to know that there are two parts of the equation. There cannot be one pole without other. Like day and night, they are connected in one whole and this is exactly what our conscious “I” does not want to understand. We only care about how to keep our good feelings, and how to get rid of our bad ones. Instead, we should be aware of opposites, understand this fact and accept both sides of ourselves, without judging, without sacrificing one over another.

© Rita Digilova 2010

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